As published in the Lake Travis View, March, 2022.
“In 1971, there were 300 houses on 1,000 acres in Lakeway. Out of necessity and to safeguard Lake Travis from contamination, a committee was formed to manage wastewater needs and potable water services. On February 17, 1972 TCEQ approved the formation of ‘Lakeway Municipal Utility District No. 1’ (soon after dropping the ‘No.1’) becoming one of the first MUDs in Texas and the first utility company in Lakeway. LMUD proceeded to make strategic infrastructure investments in the community including one of the state’s first innovative approaches to water conservation with a water reuse system to irrigate Lakeway’s golf courses, starting with Yaupon Golf Course in 1975. They went on to make history in 1994 by becoming the first water provider in Texas to utilize a water reuse system in a residential area: Estates of Lakeway Hills. In 1987, Lakeway’s iconic golf ball water tower was commissioned by LMUD out of the necessity to bring much needed additional water pressure to the growing community. This was the area’s second elevated water tower, built after a tower near the World of Tennis in 1973. To this day, LMUD continues to be recognized as a leader in water quality management, working closely with residents and the City of Lakeway to provide sustainable growth to the community by providing services that support environmental and public health initiatives.”
This is the text from the historical marker that was bestowed upon LMUD’s district office in 2020 by the Lakeway Heritage Committee in honor of our commitment to the city. This year marks LMUD’s 50th year of service to the community of Lakeway and we are celebrating it by recognizing the people behind the organization from the past and present. “The theme we decided on is a puzzle,” said Stephanie Threinen, LMUD’s Public Information Liaison. “Each customer, each employee, each board or committee member from past and present is an essential piece of our story: who we are and what we are able to accomplish. Without them, where would we be?”
Earl Foster, LMUD’s General Manager who has served LMUD since 2006, said, “One of the original founders of Lakeway, Edward W. Plodzik, was our first board president in 1972. Our current board president, Jerry Hietpas, faithfully volunteered with us since 2005. Our current longest-serving employee, Rafael Mendoza, LMUD’s Water Department Supervisor, has been on our team since 1998, followed by our Wastewater and Field Departments Supervisor, Roger Fry, who has been with us since 2000. We have customers who have been with us for a long time, who have seen us evolve over the years and express their gratitude for us not being just ‘another utility provider,’ but a valued part of the community. We know it’s the hard work & commitment of our team and the faith our customers show in us that make us who we are, and we are eternally grateful to each one of them.”
“As we move into the future,” Foster continued, “our focus is on water conservation: finding new ways to address drought. Our community continues to grow and with it, demand, but we only have one water source: Lake Travis, so we must implement innovative approaches to water management, matched by a commitment from our customers to use only what they need.”
Water reuse is using recycled or treated wastewater (reclaimed water) for beneficial purposes, such as irrigation. LMUD was an early adopter of using recycled water for irrigation and we continue to expand this system to save the amount of water that is taken out of Lake Travis. Foster’s foresight for the Out of District Wastewater Project – launched in 2018 to extend the utility’s public wastewater collection system into the first 17 sections of Lakeway to protect Lake Travis from contamination by the bordering failing septic systems – also included running recycled water lines along with the new wastewater lines. This expansion of the reclaimed water system will allow over 300 homes to connect to this alternate water source for irrigation purposes. Christianne Castleberry, LMUD’s engineer since 2007, said, “This has the potential for reducing potable water use by approximately 267 gallons per day per home which equates to roughly 32 million gallons or a 97 acre-ft savings in water taken from Lake Travis per year.”
Late last year, LMUD installed advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) water meters district-wide. These “smart” meters utilize the latest technology in water metering to provide the utility with more insights on water usage, including the ability to detect and respond to leaks faster to prevent water loss. In the near future, LMUD customers will have access to an app that will allow them to track their hour-by-hour water use and set alerts about potential leaks in their home with tips for identifying the source.
Loyd Smith, LMUD’s Finance/Admin Manager since 2012 and a Lakeway resident since 2009 said, “Lakeway MUD is truly a unique utility that goes above and beyond to serve their customers. Take the ice storm last year for example: our field guys were out there at all hours of the day and night, some in their own personal vehicles that could handle the icy roads, not only helping shut off our customers’ water meters, but working in conjunction with the city to provide bottled water and other supplies to those in need. So much of what our team does on a daily basis goes unnoticed because clean water and wastewater services are just expected. We’re hoping to change that and develop increasingly positive relationships with the people we serve.”
LMUD plans to hold a special celebration to honor staff and customers for their 50th anniversary this coming May during Drinking Water Week.
Written by Stephanie Threinen, public information liaison for the Lakeway Municipal Utility District (LMUD). Earl Foster is the general manager of LMUD.